A group of RVers from SKP (Escape) Chapter 33 Okanagan arrived in town this week to take in the sights and enjoy everything the city has to offer. The 23 rigs, averaging 40 feet, parked out at Birchbank. (Guy Bertrand photo)

Greater Trail tourism stays strong despite wildfires

The Trail and District Chamber reports 2,200 visitors from May to August, more than all of 2015

If tourist numbers are any indication, wildfires didn’t seem to hinder visitors to the Trail area this summer.

The local chamber reports from May to August, the Trail Visitor Centre welcomed 2,200 visitors, which is the total number of visitors for the whole year back in 2015.

Increased signage, “Info on the Go” tents at local events and strong ties to Destination BC led to a rise in tourism last summer as well, statistics show the RV Park ran at 70 per cent capacity, up from 25 per cent the year previous, and hundreds more visitors signing in to the visitor centre.

The trend was similar this summer, and even though the season is over for most, there is still an out-of-town populace wanting to stay in the city.

Audry Durham, the chamber’s executive director, says campers are currently being turned away because the city’s RV Park closed for the season after Labour Day.

The Trail and District Chamber of Commerce runs the grounds which are open May 1 to the beginning of September.

But outside those months, people still call asking to rent a space in the park, which is located on Highway 3B adjacent to the Waneta Plaza.

“The park did do well this summer, and was fully booked a few times,” Durham told the Trail Times. “But we are constantly turning people away wanting to camp before May and into September,” she added.

“Especially guys in town with their campers for shutdowns at Teck or Celgar,” said Durham. “There’s no place for them, which is too bad, because if we can keep them here they will shop and eat out at our local businesses.”

As a possible solution, Durham said the chamber is working with the Kiwanis in hopes of expanding their Beaver Creek Park campground with additional full service sites.

Another place that receives plenty of tourism-related calls is Trail City Hall.

Those queries usually centre around directions, maps and souvenirs.

This summer, however, some of those conversations revolved around smoke and fire.

Front-end staff received calls about the forest fire situation in Trail and if surrounding wildfires were affecting flights out of the city’s airport.

“Transportation options to and from the airport are another one,” says Communication and Events Coordinator Andrea Jolly. “We do get a fair amount of people coming in as well with the same queries, and email inquiries about the RV Park … and we definitely get an increase in calls around special events.”

András Lukács from Tourism Rossland reports an active season in the Alpine City despite the wildfires.

“We had a busy summer with major sporting events (such as) the Broken Goat and SingleTrack6,” he told the Trail Times. “While the wildfires in B.C. severely affected the tourism industry, we were lucky and had a great season.”

He says sporting events draw huge crowds to Rossland and overall visitor feedback is very positive.

“Our most important summer tourism product is our world-class trail system and the outdoor activities associated with it (mountain biking and hiking),” Lukács said. “Our trail system, maintained and developed by the Kootenay Columbia Trail Society is consistently praised by visitors. The local vibe – including our accommodation, restaurant and shopping options – are always a highlight of a visit to Rossland.”

Next year, Trail tourism strategies will fall into the city’s lap when the Visitor Information Centre moves into the Riverfront Centre and joins museum.

“The multi-use Riverfront Centre should become a real hub for tourists who may stop in the downtown,” said Mayor Mike Martin. “There will be no admission fee charged to tour the historical exhibits and the Museum and Archives manager will be looking at ongoing opportunities to bring in traveling exhibits so there will always be a reason to come down to the centre.”

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